Three Poems by Richard Boada

With My Ghost

Riding the tram at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport 

from one end of the terminal to the other 

so that we would make our flight to San Antonio 

where I would be reading poems from a new book 

during the pandemic and all of us 

in that tram feeling the stillness 

of a quiet emergency, but we were so optimistic 

that this time away from Mississippi would bring us 

together and we would heal in the desert 

and soothe the escalating distance that had arrived in us 

somehow since we reached a place where we 

no longer felt tenderness in our bodies 

amid a new calamity of hoping 

that we could change each other in the darkness. 


Night Shift

My wife comes home 
from her night shift 

as a nurse at the hospital 
that’s named after the county 

in southern Mississippi where we live – 
Forrest General Hospital – named 

after Nathan Bedford Forrest, 
the Confederate general who massacred 

hundreds of Black Union soldiers 
at Fort Pillow – ordered to shoot 

and murder them after the garrison surrendered – 
I can see the men kneeling 

in the magma of blood 
that hungered toward the relief 

of the Mississippi River – 
murdered in flames that chard 

the earth and trees – and there’s 
George Floyd and Breonna Taylor – 

Forrest County – named after 
a constancy of violence – 

and I know my wife 
has been struggling to heal 

and I’m not teaching this summer 
so I’m awake at 8 in the morning 

and I have been awake since she left 
for work and I am home 

to drink beer with her 
like a miner would at the end of night – 

and for the first time in years 
she tells me about herself – 

her mother had died when she was 7 – 
she would sleep in her father’s bed – 

she would reach for him
and some kind of mumbling 

as if she could in that moment become 
a woman who her mother would never see – 

and see herself pointing up at the dead – 
exactly like the way I have been looking 

at my lover who has never 
quite been. 


Clawfoot Tub

Our wet bodies 
once saved us 

from the darkness 
of self-annihilation 

but this is the moment 
that will outlive me: 

she was waiting 
in my small town 

Mississippi apartment 
that overlooked the courthouse 

with the confederate general namesake 
the little used theater that would play 

movies during the holidays 
a train station paralyzed 

by the lack of passengers 
the alley where high schoolers 

smoked weed and drank tallboys
and I left her a key 

so she could let herself in 
and wait for me as I returned 

home to Mississippi 
from Thanksgiving break 

in Kentucky and the long 
highway cuffed the expectation 

of seeing her, like when 
we could ride elevators

and look forward 
to the randomness 

of the flight, she 
would be there 

and we would soon 
be naked, and she 

would soon fall asleep 
and wake up tangled 

in the fall and the stale 
absurdity of making love 

to another who 
was invisible and lonely, too.  

Years later, such loneliness
could not prevent me 

from growing old 
and becoming less 

beautiful to the girl 
who would find another 

love in a new town 
and fantasize about him 

in our bathtub 
where we would 

no longer be 
with our ghosts 

or the pulse 
of sex, no longer safe 

in the wetness 
of our flesh 

or the metabolism 
of our pain.    

Richard Boada is author of three poetry collections: We Find Each Other in the Darkness (Texas Review Press 2020), The Error of Nostalgia (Texas Review Press 2013), and Archipelago Sinking (Finishing Line Press 2011). He has been a finalist for the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Book Prize and is a recipient of a Mississippi Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship. His poems appear in the Southern Poetry Anthology, Urban Voices: 51 Poets / 51 Poems, Crab Orchard Review, Rhino, and the North American Review among others. He teaches for the West Virginia Wesleyan College Low Residency MFA Program and Lane College.